Kaleidoscope #2

Let's talk about the Vaccines.

No, the band.

In 2011, the Londoners released their first album, What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?. If you don't remember it, you may remember its cover.

The iconic album cover of The Vaccines' debut ablum.

I loved the album, even more because it was a debut. It's fun to discover a band when they've just started, imagining the twists and turns in the years ahead—tours, t-shirts, reinventions. I hung a concert print on the wall and was eager to see them live.

It never happened. I listened to their sophomore album the day it came out, but it didn't stick. I tried the third and maybe even the fourth. I couldn't say definitively that the follow-up albums were worse, but it turned out those first 11 songs were all the Vaccines I needed.

My natural inclination is to be all-in or all-out. If I stop enjoying a band's albums, author's books, or director's movies, I'm tempted to reconsider my favorites. Maybe that album wasn't as good as I thought it was.

An artist's work may speak to you for a moment or a lifetime. You might devour every book or decide it's the same idea expressed in slightly different ways. Sometimes an artist falls out of favor when they change, other times when they don't. Music reviews bemoan one band's unrelenting sameness and another's unsuccessful experiments.

In the Uncommon community, people shared their ten favorite things. I wanted to add start and end dates so you could capture things that meant everything to you once, just a different you at a different time.

It’s rare and magical to be captivated by something or someone, whether a book that changed your life or an album that defined a summer. If it's for a season and not a lifetime, that's still more than enough.

Recent writing

I wrote two essays in July. First, an ode to the Internet's art bots, which have transformed my love and knowledge of art: Wherefore Art My Art Bot. The second is more personal: The Day Bruce Springsteen Talked Me into Therapy. Enjoy!

Since Kaleidoscope #1, I’ve started a new job at 37signals as Head of Product Strategy. We make Basecamp for project management HEY for email, both of which I’ve used for years and highly recommend. I wrote about quitting my job in Another Leap and what it's like to start a new job without leaving your house in New Job, Same Desk.

One of the features of HEY is a blogging/newsletter tool called HEY World. I’m writing about product strategy there: http://world.hey.com/bbailey The first two posts are It's Okay Not to Know, about the benefits of looking at a product with fresh eyes, and The Pizza or the Toppings, on discovering the core of the problem you're solving and the feature you’re building.

"Flowers" (1945) by William Johnson

One thing

I find books on writing irresistable, so I devoured Matt Bell's Refuse to Be Done. It's filled with practical advice for writing a novel (or anything really), and like all good writing books, much of it applies to life, too.

A few excerpts:

Always go to where your energy is the highest. Your excitement will generate more excitement—and you will avoid the alternative, where your boredom generates more boredom.

Move toward pleasure, excitement, joy. Save nothing for later. Spend your excitement and inspiration as soon as it appears, trusting that there’s more where that came from. Put the good stuff down on the page as soon as it appears in your head and then use the good stuff that’s there to imagine more good stuff.

If you don’t know what to write next, make what you’ve already written better, more itself, more you. Staying at the desk while you do this—working even while you’re lost—will mean you’re already at the keys when inspiration returns.
—Matt Bell, Refuse to Be Done

Thanks for reading. Just hit reply to say hi.

All the best,


I believe that you either love the work or the rewards. Life is a lot easier if you love the work. — Jane Smiley (via Matt Bell)